The success of any organization depends on how well it is able to solve ensuing problems.
Needs Assessment for a New Context
The aim of every organization is to achieve excellence. Many factors both positive and negative can impact thus causing success or failure. If these difficulties are identified and appropriate solutions found then the problems can be minimized or completely eradicated. In order to unearth these problems one of the first steps is to conduct a needs assessment as " a study conducted to determine the exact nature of an organizational problem and how it can be resolved" (Hirumi, 2000).
Needs assessment can also be conducted to determine if the existing policies and practices within an organization/program are effective and also relevant to its needs. Anglin (1995) and Dick & Carey (1996) identified five essential components of needs assessment; they are: Optimals, Actuals, Feelings, Causes, and Solutions. For the purpose of this paper, a need has been defined as a gap between the existing and desired results between 'what is' and 'what should be'. Against this background the writer's attention will focus on the Jericho Hill School (JHS) for the deaf.
The Jericho Hill School for the deaf is located in British Columbia, Canada. It is the main residential school for the deaf from as early as the 1950's until 1992. It is a government owned school which was built to accommodate deaf students who could not be served in their communities. The JHS is a K-12 educational institution with a population of approximately 600 students and 21 staff members. The school has a few selection of courses ranging from technical to artistic courses. There are different clubs in the school. JHS offers a number of items for sale, including school supplies.
The mission of the school is to provide its students with the type of education that will prepare and enable them to fit into society.
In conducting this investigation the data gathering instruments were telephone interview and email to the director of students' affairs, the principal, two staff members, and three past students.
It is hoped that administrators, caregivers, and parents will be exposed and adequately trained and be given the opportunity to learn Sign Language and become proficient in order to communicate effectively with the children. It is hoped that administrators and caregivers will begin to listen to what the children who are deaf have to say and that the system upon which they rely will be designed to meet their needs. Most important is that the first responsibility of those primarily responsible for the administration of the residential program at JHS intervene and provide fair, equitable, and appropriate service to the children
Most of the administrators and caregivers at the school are not proficient in American Sign Language (ASL). Most of the parents of the resident children had never been given the opportunity to learn Sign Language (SL) and to communicate effectively with their children. The administration has not been providing fair, equitable and appropriate service to the children. The children were ignored, discredited, and unsupported. Parents are adamant that their children are to be taught in English orally. These factors contributed to sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.
It is the general feeling that the school was not established on a philosophical foundation that respects, enhances, supports, and celebrates the culture and the fact of being deaf. There does not appear to have been the expectation that those who work at JHS would advocate on behalf of the residents and to take seriously any allegation of abuse of the children.
Representatives from the Ministry of Education feel that students and parents of children who are deaf should have a choice in language for the children's education. It is also felt if parents, caregivers, and administrators are appropriately trained in ASL then the communication problems would be minimized thus eradicating the problems of abuse. It is felt that adequate support services are to be organized, that many parents are still unaware of the details of abuse, and that the level of care provided by dormitory staff needs to be improved.
In trying to determine optimal performance and feelings about an innovation researchers such as Bandura (1977) and Kellier (1979, 1983) focused their attention on four causes, they are:
1. Lack of skills and knowledge: This is a major problem facing the staff and parents as it impairs their ability to communicate effectively with the children. They are ignorant to ASL and do not have the background and/required training to handle the students' problems.
2. The environment is in the way: No provision has been made for adequate security neither has administration put preventative measures in place to ensure that the conditions which enabled such abuse to occur were not still present. The administrators act as councilors and are usually ineffective. The level of care provided by dormitory staff is poor. They are either absent or unwilling to accept reports of abuse.
3. There are no, few, improper incentives: Staff members admitted that they are not held accountable for any mishaps regarding students safety. They said that they do not get financial compensation for overtime work. They reiterate that students' complaints were never listened to and that no litigation has ever been brought against any member of staff. They said that they have no reason to 'overdo' the job as they follow their job description.
4. The employees are unmotivated: The staff is unmotivated they do not feel fulfilled as they do not place much value and do not see the necessity to learn the ASL. Learning the ASL is not mandatory for staff, also they do not see why they should make any effort to learn a language that the students' parents are generally opposed to.
From this needs assessment it can be concluded that the major solutions are training for improved communication, improved tools, and training for better supervision of the program. There is a definite need to improve communication among stakeholders. Also the stakeholders should listen to the students so as to overcome weaknesses in approaches to dealing with the students, overcome weaknesses in attitudes toward the students, and overcome weaknesses in supervision skills. Emphasis must be placed on training the caregivers, parents, and administrators in workshop settings or seminars to better able to deal with the problems of the deaf students.
There has to be improved tools, structural improvements to the dorms, a tightening of security/safety and the well being of the students in staff's care. The writer would highly recommend as a viable solution, the introduction of child abuse programs and psychological services for all the students involved for as long as required.
Support services need to be organized within the institution in order for students to express their concerns. A wide range of direct support should be established and barrier-free access to communication for the deaf students.
'The wheel needs to be reinvented' a change in administration could be considered.
Anglin, Gary J. (1995). Instructional Technology: Past, present, and future (2nd ed.), Libraries Unlimited, Inc. Englewood, Colorado.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-Efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavior change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.
Dick, W. & Carey, L. (1996). The Systematic Design of Instruction (4th ed), Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
Hirumi, A. (2000). Enhancing Dick and Carey Model for instructional systems design. Supplemental readings, p.18.
Kellier, J. (1979) Motivation and instructional design: A theoretical perspective. Journal of Instructional Development, 2(4), 26-34.